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Yellowstone County Declares Emergency; Malmstrom Case Negative; MT National Guard Steps In

Here's a roundup of coronavirus news breaking in Montana on Monday, Mar. 16:

Yellowstone County’s Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Monday issued a declaration of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of Montana’s first presumptively positive COVID-19 detections came out of Yellowstone County Friday night. The state has reported six in-state presumed positive individuals in Gallatin, Broadwater and Silver Bow counties and two in Missoula County.

BOCC wrote via press release the emergency declaration allows the county to request additional funding to prevent, test for and compat COVID-19 as the need arises.

More details are expected after the commissioner’s discussion meeting this afternoon.

Update 03/16/20, 7 P.M.: In a meeting later in the day, Commissioner Denis Pitman said the declaration enables the county to be eligible for federal recovery funds following measures like closing restaurants and businesses to decrease the chace of exposure.

"We need to be able to gather that information, quantify it and be able to submit it to whatever resources might be available for reimbursement or for some type of relief as we go into the future," he said.

Eight Montana Army National Guard Soldiers were activated Sunday to assist with transporting eight Montanans returning from quarantine after disembarking a cruise ship, the governor’s office announced Monday.

Cruise ship passengers were held at Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia after being in proximity of a person on the ship with the COVID-19 illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The eight passengers from Montana were flown on a government contracted aircraft to Helena Sunday. All eight are not showing symptoms of COVID-19. They were tested by the state health department at the Montana National Guard’s C-12 hangar. National Guard soldiers escorted them home by state vehicle to Wise River, Helena, Great Falls, Big Timber and Billings.

“Although there was no indication that Montana passengers were at risk of contracting COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution all the passengers and Soldiers were wearing personal protective equipment that is recommended by the Center for Disease Control for transporting infected persons,” said Major General Matthew Quinn, Montana Adjutant General and Coronavirus Task Force Leader via press release. “We have exceeded the personal protective equipment necessary and taken all the precautions to ensure the safe transport of these Montanans while ensuring the safety and security of our Soldiers.”

“During these uncertain times, we must look out for one another and do all we can to ensure the health and safety of our fellow Montanans,” wrote Gov. Steve Bullock. “I’m incredibly grateful to the Guard soldiers who answered their call to duty and took all safety precautions to ensure their health and the health of others in order to deliver these Montanans to their homes.”

Two Montanans remained at Dobbins Air Force Base at their own request.

A patient under monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls has tested negative for the virus.

Base officials write via press release the negative test from a dependent spouse thought to have contracted the illness caused by the novel coronavirus returned from the state lab Friday evening.

The base declared a public health emergency Friday following Gov. Bullock’s state declaration. Public Affairs Officer Denise Guiao-Corpuz said the declaration gives base leaders more room and ability to potentially close down Malmstrom facilities and restrict travel. The emergency order is in place for 30 days.

The Associated Press reports Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is closing his country's borders to anyone not a citizen or a permanent resident or American amid the coronavirus pandemic. And even they have to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.

Trudeau announced the move Monday outside his residence, where he is self isolating after his wife tested positive for the new coronavirus.

He also asked Canadians to say home as much as possible amid the pandemic.